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Keywords:

  • Medicago truncatula;
  • desiccation tolerance;
  • seeds;
  • germination;
  • C metabolism;
  • gene profiling

Summary

To investigate regulatory processes and protective mechanisms leading to desiccation tolerance (DT) in seeds, 16086-element microarrays were used to monitor changes in the transcriptome of desiccation-sensitive 3-mm-long radicles of Medicago truncatula seeds at different time points during incubation in a polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution at −1.7 MPa, resulting in a gradual re-establishment of DT. Gene profiling was also performed on embryos before and after the acquisition of DT during maturation. More than 1300 genes were differentially expressed during the PEG incubation. A large number of genes involved in C metabolism are expressed during the re-establishment of DT. Quantification of C reserves confirms that lipids, starch and oligosaccharides were mobilised, coinciding with the production of sucrose during the early osmotic adjustment. Several clusters of gene profiles were identified with different time-scales. Genes expressed early during the PEG incubation belonged to classes involved in early stress and adaptation responses. Interestingly, several regulatory genes typically expressed during abiotic/drought stresses were also upregulated during maturation, arguing for the partial overlap of ABA-dependent and -independent regulatory pathways involved in both drought and DT. At later time points, in parallel to the re-establishment of DT, upregulated genes are comparable with those involved in late seed maturation. Concomitantly, a massive repression of genes belonging to numerous classes occurred, including cell cycle, biogenesis, primary and energy metabolism. The re-establishment of DT in the germinated radicles appears to concur with a partial return to the quiescent state prior to germination.